Nationals stage epic comeback in 7-3, 10-inning win over Dodgers in NLDS Game 5

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The Nationals looked defeated for most of NLDS Game 5 against the Dodgers, but they staged a late comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen to pull out a 7-3 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers jumped on Stephen Strasburg early as Max Muncy swatted a two-run home run in the first inning and Kiké Hernández followed up with a solo shot in the second, staking Walker Buehler to a 3-0 lead. Strasburg would settle down from there, but Buehler outmatched him.

Buehler didn’t get into hot water until the fifth inning when Kurt Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and Michael A. Taylor grounded a single to center field, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Buehler, however, wriggled out of the jam by striking out Strasburg and Trea Turner, then getting Adam Eaton to fly out.

The Nationals finally got through against Buehler in the sixth as Anthony Rendon led off with a double and scored on Juan Soto‘s RBI single to right field.

Buehler got into more trouble in the seventh, leading off the inning by hitting Suzuki with a two-seam fastball that ran too far inside. Buehler, however, would strike out Taylor and get Asdrúbal Cabrera to line out. Turner drew a walk to extend the Nationals’ rally and with Buehler at 117 pitches, manager Dave Roberts decided to bring lefty Clayton Kershaw in as a reliever to face Eaton. The decision paid off as Kershaw struck out Eaton on three pitches to escape the seventh inning.

Buehler finished the night allowing the one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts across 6 2/3 innings. Strasburg served up his three runs on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.

Kershaw returned to the mound for the eighth inning in what would be neither his Roberts’ finest hour. Rendon immediately greeted Kershaw with a solo homer to right field to make it 3-2. Soto followed up with a solo homer to right-center to tie the game. Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who proceeded to strike out the side.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth for the Nationals. Roberts sent Joe Kelly to the mound in the ninth. He worked a 1-2-3 inning. Daniel Hudson kept the game deadlocked at 3-3 with a scoreless bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Roberts sent Kelly out for a second inning of work, another decision that would come back to haunt him. Kelly walked Eaton to start the frame, then Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double to left field. With first base open, Soto was intentionally walked, but Kendrick followed up by swatting a tie-breaking grand slam to center field, putting the Nationals up 7-3.

Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom half of the 10th. He struck out pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock, got Muncy to ground out, and Justin Turner to fly out to shallow center field on a nice diving play from Taylor. The play was reviewed but the call on the field was quickly upheld. The Nationals officially won their first playoff series.

For the first time since 1981, and for the first time since moving to D.C. and shedding the Expos name in 2005, the Nationals are in the NLCS. The Cardinals, who won Game 5 convincingly against the Braves earlier today, will have home field advantage, so the series will begin on Friday in St. Louis. The two sides last matched up in the postseason in the 2012 NLDS, which the Cardinals won in five games.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.